With sharrows and bike lanes, Iowa City carves biker-friendly image

BY NICOLE KARLIS | JULY 15, 2009 7:15 AM

Officials are pedaling along to make Iowa City and surrounding cities “Bicycle-Friendly.”

Johnson County cities officially considered adopting the Metro Bicycle Master Plan at the Regional Trails and Bicycling Committee meeting on Tuesday. Once the communities have adopted the plan, they are free to decide how they want to maneuver toward being a “Bicycle-Friendly Community.”

“It’s a milestone,” said Kristopher Ackerson, an assistant transportation planner for the Johnson County Council of Governments.

The Metro Bicycle Master Plan is one of three recommendations Iowa City received after applying in 2007 to become a “Bicycle Friendly Community” to the nonprofit League of American Bicylists.

The other two recommendations were implement more educational programs and install street bike facilities, Ackerson said.

From “bike to work” days to the recent shared-lane arrows on Market and Jefferson Streets, Iowa City had pulled ahead of the race.

The shared-lane arrows help remind motorist to give enough space when passing bicyclists, and in turn remind cyclists where on the road they should ride.

The recent addition of shared-lane arrows have mostly received positive feedback from locals.

“I like the new bike lanes on Market and Jefferson,” said UI alumnus Zeb Squires, an Iowa City resident and long-time biker. But he noted potential improvements.

Potholes and rough roads are particularly annoying bumps, he said.

But becoming a “Bicycle-Friendly Community” is “by no mean a rubber stamp,” said Elizabeth Kaker, the vice president of the League of American Bicyclists.

There are 108 “Bicycle-Friendly Communities” in the United States. To qualify, a city must show that it has achieved majority of the five “E”s, such as engineering and education. Only about one-third of applicants nationwide receive the award, Kaker said.

Despite frequent sightings of bicyclists on Iowa City roads, Cedar Falls won the race in earning the “Bicycle-Friendly” title before any other community in the state — one of 13 to receive the award in 2009.

Though the title does not bring a large sum of money, it does garner bragging rights.

Telling your community is the benefit of the “Bicycle-Friendly Community” designation, Kaker said.

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